On my 28th birthday, two of my friends and I walked through the Vatican Museums for the first time.
We began walked through the Sala delle Muse, Sala Rotonda and the garden areas to ease ourselves in what was most likely going to be overstimulating. We enjoyed the marble, statues, tiling, fountains and plants. Everything felt welcoming and warm.
One area that I seemed to feel heaven’s inspiration was in the Sala della Biga. This alcove was almost all white marble. Everything looked and felt angelic.
Just after Sala della Biga, we came into a long hallway that is called the Gallery of Maps. It’s a series of painted maps of Italy based on drawings by Ignazio Danti. Each panel depicting a region of its most prominent city.
We continued on through galleries, hallways, rooms for a while, mouths agape the entire time. And before we knew it, we were in THE Sistine Chapel. We were in it.
I’m not going to go into this place and its art at length. I’m nowhere NEAR qualified to do so. All I feel adequate to share are my feelings, because the Sistine Chapel is one of those places that I felt so much appreciation of sacrifice, of art, of religious experiences through the ages, and of the human experience.
Since we visited in March, it wasn’t as busy as it can be. So I was able to snag a seat on the side and rest my head on the wall to look up. I listened along to Rick Steves’ Europe app while I marveled at the chapel ceiling above me, The Last Judgment by Michelangelo in front of me, and the various other walls of frescoes surrounding me.
One of the pieces that I was able to see up close and personal was the fresco by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, The School of Athens.
This particular painting was one I remember studying at length in college. I remember being fascinated at the time to learn that nearly every great ancient Greek was depicted in the piece. To finally see it in person, in the Apostolic Palace, was special.
Besides the works of art that I mentioned, how could I ever narrow down which other pieces moved me? It’s truly impossible. But the following made great impressions on me to see in person: Caravaggio’s Entombment, Titian’s Frari Madonna, Bondone’s Stefaneschi Triptych, Raphael’s Transfiguration, Raphael’s Adoration of the Magi, and da Vinci’s St. Jerome in Wilderness.
There were a few areas we weren’t able to spend a lot of time in, or had to simply walk through or walk past… which was SO UNFORTUNATE. But I made myself a promise that I will return to Rome and Vatican City to see what I wasn’t able to see this trip.